Tiger Goes Tiger

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 25, 2008, 5:00 pm
Editor's Note: In Backspin, the GOLFCHANNEL.com editorial staff takes a look back on the biggest stories from the past week in golf -- with a spin.
CRAZY GOOD: Tiger Woods jumped up early in Sunday's championship match of the WGC-Accenture Match Play event and never looked back, drubbing Stewart Cink, 8 and 7, in the finale. It was Woods' third Match Play title and 15th career WGC event title overall.
BackspinLet's just state the facts here and then you can re-read them over and over until it starts to sink in: Three starts in 2008 - three wins; Has won six of his last seven PGA TOUR starts; 63rd career TOUR win, moving him past Arnie, within one of Hogan and nine back of Jack; And this was his 15th WGC title, staggering when you consider that these are fields comprised of the best of the best. Perspective? The rest of the world has combined for 12 WGC event wins. Grand Slam in 2008? Crazy yes, but crazy good he is.

EARLY EXITS: Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson got the weekend off after early losses at the WGC-Match Play. Els, one of four No. 1 seeds, got hammered by Jonathan Byrd, 6 and 5, in his first round match up, while Mickelson fell, 2 and 1, at the hands of Stuart Appleby in the round of 32.
BackspinThe Big Easy probably regrets his late entry into this tournament; but all things considered the South African actually performed as expected when you take into account that he has lost in the first round of this event four out of seven times. Els will deserve all the criticism he gets. Mickelson, on the other hand, does not. Phil shot the second best round of the day, 7 under, in his match. The best round, naturally, was shot by Appleby. Still, Lefty needs to improve his lackluster match play performance, particularly with the Ryder Cup just around the corner.

THE WEEKLEY NEWS: Boo Weekley may have lost to Woody Austin in the third round this past week, but per usual he made news in and around the course in each of his matches, the best copy coming from his opening-round match with Martin Kaymer.
Backspin On the very first hole of his first WGC-Match Play event, Weekley learned one of the most basic lessons of the match play format - the ability to concede a putt to your opponent. Kaymer, Boo's Rd. 1 competitor, left a birdie putt a foot short on the opening hole and waited for Boo to give him the natural, 'That's good' comment. It didn't come. Boo was just being Boo and had no idea that there was a situation in golf where you could just pick up your ball without holing out. Said Weekley, weakly afterwards, I mean, after I told him, Hey, man, I didnt know the rule. He was OK with that. As are we, Boo.

HOT PINK!: Paula Creamer staged a remarkable, late round rally to edge Jeong Jang and Annika Sorenstam to win the Fields Open in Hawaii. Birdies on four of her last five holes - including a 5-footer on the event's final hole - vaulted Creamer into the winner's circle for the fifth time in her young LPGA career.
Backspin Wow, what a start for Carolyn Bivens and the LPGA Tour. First, Annika Sorenstam wins the lid-lifter last week in the Hawaiian Islands and then Creamer, who along with Annika is one of the tour's most marketable stars, wins the following week while still in paradise. Next up? World No. 1 Lorena Ochoa finally joins the fray with her season debut at the inaugural HSBC Women's Champions event in Singapore. Yes, these girls do indeed 'Rock!'

A WIE BIT RUSTY: Michelle Wie made her 2008 LPGA debut in her native Hawaii and fired an opening round 3-under 69 that put her into early contention. She followed it up with a 1-over 73 in Rd. 2 and then stumbled home with a 6-over 78 to finish a full 20 strokes behind winner Creamer.
BackspinHard to judge by just one tournament, and the fact that it was her first competitive round in about five months, but the now 18-year-old freshman at Stanford did at least make the cut - the first time since last year's Evian Masters in July. But the good vibe was quickly doused with that 78 which put her dead last amongst those who made the cut.

GAY AND MERRY IN MEXICO: Brian Gay used a flawless third-round 8-under 62 en route to his first-ever PGA TOUR victory at the Mayakoba Golf Classic in Mexico . Gay, a 10-year TOUR veteran cruised to the win over runner-up John Merrick in the TOUR's opposite field event of the WGC-Match Play.
BackspinAlthough it was a breakthrough win for Gay, the fans in Mexico were no doubt hoping for a win from their native son Esteban Toledo. Toledo, playing in his 282nd PGA TOUR event and still seeking his first victory, thrilled the locals with a great third round that included six birdies and an eagle to climb into contention. Despite chants of 'Mexican Tiger!' from his supporters, Toledo was unable to muster the goods on Sunday and finished 11th.

SKINS GAME:Fuzzy Zoeller and Peter Jacobsen overcame a huge Day 1 deficit to overtake Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson to win the Champions Tour Skins Game. The duo split a cool $320,000.
Backspin Not a bad gig if you can get it - play golf for a living, travel to places like Maui, Hawaii, and play alongside the likes of Nicklaus and Watson, Palmer, and Player. Jake summed it up nicely, 'These guys in this thing are Hall of Famers. These are legends.' And the money ain't bad either.

IN CASE YOU MISSED IT: Greg Norman made a rare appearance on the PGA TOUR this week at Riviera Maya in Mexico, a course he designed; It was announced that Tiger Woods' PGA TOUR event would get an extra year at Congressional Country Club as it will again host the 2009 AT&T National.
Backspin It's always a treat to see Norman back out on the course playing golf, but his first hand knowledge of the layout in Mexico apparently didnt help the 52-year-old as he missed the cut; Tiger has said that he wants Congressional to be the permanent home for his tournament, but with 2011 U.S. Open coming to the famed Blue Course Woods will need to look elsewhere for 2010 as the USGA gets Congressional U.S. Open ready.

Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - WGC-Match Play Championship
  • Full Coverage - Mayakoba Open
  • Full Coverage - Fields Open
  • Full Coverage - Champions Skins Game
  • More Headlines
  • Getty Images

    Sergio can now 'relax and trust it' after Masters win

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 4:52 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Sergio Garcia says he didn’t let down his guard after winning the Masters and coast through the rest of the PGA Tour season.

    If anything, he says, he burned more to win after claiming his first major championship title last spring.

    “I was hungry or hungrier than I was before,” Garcia said while preparing for his first PGA Tour start of 2018 at the Honda Classic. “It doesn't change ... After the Masters, from The Players until probably the middle of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, I wanted to do well so badly.”

    Garcia said his push to build on that Masters win probably caused him to be more erratic, trying to make things happen.

    Honda Classic: Articles, photos and videos

    “That's why my game would be very good a couple of rounds, and then a couple of rounds not quite as good, for putting that extra pressure,” Garcia said. “And then when I started to kind of relax and say, ‘You know, just keep doing what you're doing, you're playing well, you're playing great, just trust it and keep at it.’ That's when things started coming along a little bit easier.”

    That “relax and trust it” attitude helped Garcia win the Andalucia Valderrama Masters in the fall and the Singapore Open last month.

    After 15 years with TaylorMade, Garcia agreed late last year to a new multi-year equipment deal with Callaway, to play their balls and equipment.

    Garcia on making the transition: “It was very easy, I think, for a couple of reasons. One of them, I moved to a great company that makes great equipment, and second of all, usually, I get used to new equipment quite easily, even in my old brand. I used to be one of the first ones to change the new equipment.”

    Garcia played the Chrome Soft X when he won in Singapore.

    “It hasn't been a stressful move or anything like that,” Garcia said. “I really love the golf ball. I think the golf ball, for me, it's been a step forward from the past years.”

    Win or not, this will be a big spring for Garcia. His wife, Angela, is expecting their first child in March.

    Getty Images

    For better or worse, golf attracting the mainstream crowd

    By Rex HoggardFebruary 21, 2018, 4:26 pm

    A split second after Bubba Watson launched his tee shot at the par-4 10th hole on Sunday at Riviera Country Club the relative calm was shattered by one overly enthusiastic, and probably over-served, fan.

    “Boom goes the dynamite!” the fan yelled.

    Watson ignored the attention seeker, adhering to the notion it’s best not to make eye contact. But it’s becoming increasingly difficult to turn a deaf ear.

    The last few weeks on the PGA Tour have been particularly raucous, first with the circuit’s annual stop at the “world’s largest outdoor cocktail party,” which is also known as the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and then last week in Los Angeles, where Tiger Woods was making his first start since 2006 and just his second of this season.

    Fans crowded in five and six people deep along fairways and around greens to get a glimpse at the 14-time major champion, to cheer and, with increasing regularity, to push the boundaries of acceptable behavior at a golf tournament.

    “I guess it's a part of it now, unfortunately. I wish it wasn't, I wish people didn't think it was so amusing to yell and all that stuff while we're trying to hit shots and play,” said Justin Thomas, who was grouped with Woods for the first two rounds at Riviera.

    Although overzealous fans are becoming the norm, there’s a particularly rowdy element that has been drawn to the course by Woods’ return from injury. Even last month at Torrey Pines, which isn’t known as one of the Tour’s more boisterous stops, galleries were heard with increasing regularity.

    But then Tiger has been dealing with chaotic crowds since he began rewriting the record books in the late-1990s, and it’s easy to dismiss the chorus of distractions. But it turns out that is as inaccurate as it is inconsiderate.

    “It might have been like this the whole Tiger-mania and these dudes, but I swear, playing in front of all that, [Woods] gives up half a shot a day on the field,” reasoned Rory McIlroy, who was also grouped with Tiger for Rounds 1 and 2 last week. “It's two shots a tournament he has to give to the field because of all that goes on around him. ...  I need a couple Advil, I've got a headache after all that.”

    There’s always been a price to pay for all of the attention that’s followed Woods’ every step, but McIlroy’s take offered new context. How many more events could Tiger have won if he had played in front of galleries that didn’t feel the need to scream the first thing that crossed their mind?

    “It's cost me a lot of shots over the years. It's cost me a few tournaments here and there,” allowed Woods after missing the cut at Riviera. “I've dealt with it for a very long time.”

    For Woods, the ubiquitous, “Get in the hole,” shriek has simply been an occupational hazard, the burden that he endured. What’s changed in recent years is that behavior has expanded beyond Tiger’s gallery.

    While officials two weeks ago at the Waste Management Phoenix Open happily announced attendance records – 719,179 made their way to TPC Scottsdale for the week – players quietly lamented the atmosphere, specifically around the 16th hole that has become particularly harsh in recent years.

    “I was a little disappointed in some of the stuff that was said and I don't want much negativity – the normal boos for missing a green, that's fine, but leave the heckling to a minimum and make it fun, support the guys out playing,” Rickie Fowler said following his second round at TPC Scottsdale.

    What used to be an entertaining one-off in Phoenix is becoming standard fare, with players bracing for a similar atmosphere this week at PGA National’s 17th hole, and that’s not sitting well with the rank and file.

    “I guess they just think it's funny. It might be funny to them, and obviously people think of it differently and I could just be overreacting, but when people are now starting to time it wrong and get in people's swings is just completely unacceptable really,” Thomas said in Los Angeles. “We're out here playing for a lot of money, a lot of points, and a lot of things can happen, and you would just hate to see in the future something happen down the line because of something like that.”

    This issue reared its rowdy head at the 2012 Ryder Cup at Medinah, and again two years ago at Hazeltine National. Combine thousands of patriotic fans with a cash bar and what you end up with is an atmosphere closer to Yankee Stadium in October than Augusta National in April.

    It’s called mainstream sports, which golf has always aspired to until the raucous underbelly runs through the decorum stop signs that golf clings to.

    This is not an endorsement or a justification for the “Mashed Potatoes” guy – Seriously, dude, what does that even mean? – and it seems just a matter of time before someone yells something at the wrong moment and costs a player a title.

    But this is mainstream sports. It’s not pretty, it’s certainly not quiet and maybe it’s not for golf. But this is where the game now finds itself.

    Getty Images

    Nicklaus eager to help USGA rein in golf ball distance

    By Randall MellFebruary 21, 2018, 3:16 pm

    PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. – Jack Nicklaus heard words that warmed his heart over dinner Sunday with USGA executive director Mike Davis.

    He said Davis pledged to address the distance the golf ball is flying and the problems Nicklaus believes the distance explosion is creating in the game.

    “I'm happy to help you,” Nicklaus told Davis. “I've only been yelling at you for 40 years.”

    Nicklaus said he first confronted the USGA in 1977 over ball and distance issues.

    In a meeting with reporters at the Honda Classic Tuesday, Nicklaus basically blamed the ball for the troubles the game faces today, from slow play and sagging participation to soaring costs to play the game.

    Nicklaus brought up the ball when asked about slow play.

    “The golf ball is the biggest culprit of that,” Nicklaus said.

    Nicklaus said the great distance gains players enjoy today is stretching courses, and that’s slowing play. He singled out one company when asked about push back from manufacturers over proposals to roll back the distance balls can fly.

    “You can start with Titleist,” Nicklaus said.

    Nicklaus would like to see the USGA and R&A roll back the distance today’s ball flies by 20 percent. He said that would put driving distances back to what they were in the mid-‘90s, but he believes Titleist is the manufacturer most opposed to any roll back.

    “Titleist controls the game,” Nicklaus said. “And I don't understand why Titleist would be against it. I know they are, but I don't understand why you would be against it. They make probably the best product. If they make the best product, whether it's 20 percent shorter ... What difference would it make? Their market share isn't going to change a bit. They are still going to dominate the game."

    A Titleist representative declined to comment when reached by Golf Channel.

    “For the good of the game, we need to play this game in about three-and-a-half hours on a daily basis," Nicklaus said. "All other sports on television and all other sports are played in three hours, usually three hours or less – except for a five-set tennis match – but all the other games are played in that.

    “It's not about [Titleist]. It's about the people watching the game and the people that are paying the tab. The people paying the tab are the people that are buying that television time and buying all the things that happen out there. Those are the people that you've got to start to look out for.

    “And the growth of the game of golf, it's not going to grow with the young kids. Young kids don't have five hours to play golf. Young kids want instant gratification.”

    Davis said last month that increased distance is not "necessarily good for the game." R&A chief executive Martin Slumbers added earlier this month in relation to the same topic, "We have probably crossed that line."

    Nicklaus said he would like to see golf courses and golf balls rated, so that different courses could be played with different rated balls. For example, a ball rolled back “70 percent” would fit courses rated for that ball. He said players could still play those courses with a 100 percent ball, but handicapping could be factored into the game so players could compete using differently rated balls.

    “And so then if a guy wants to play with a 90 or 100 percent golf ball, it makes it shorter and faster for him to play,” Nicklaus said.

    Nicklaus believes rating balls like that would make shorter courses more playable again. He believes creating differently rated balls would also make more money for ball manufacturers.

    “Then you don't have any obsolete golf courses.” Nicklaus said. “Right now we only have one golf course that's not obsolete, as I said earlier [Augusta National], in my opinion.”

    Nicklaus said Davis seemed to like the rated ball idea.

    “The USGA was all over that, incidentally,” Nicklaus said.

    Getty Images

    Sponsored: Callaway's Chrome Soft, from creation to the course

    By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 21, 2018, 2:38 pm

    Those boxes of Callaway Chrome Soft and Chrome Soft X golf balls that you see on the shelf orignated somewhere. But where? The answer is Chicopee, Mass., a former Spalding golf ball plant that Callaway Golf purchased 15 years ago.

    The plant was built in 1915 for manufacturing automobiles, and was converted to make ballistics during WWII. Currently, it makes some of the finest golf balls in the industry.

    Eventually, those balls will be put into play by both professionals and amateurs. But the journey, from creation to the course, is an intriguing one.

    In this Flow Motion video, Callaway Golf shows you in creative fashion what it's like for these balls to be made and played. Check it out!